Do Aunts & Uncles Get the Shaft?

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under My Writing

My brother called tonight with a “question for Grading Girl.”  The conversation began like this:

My bro and his furry, four-legged “daughter”

Bro: What do you call your mother and father?

GG:  Parents

Bro: What do you call your grandmother and grandfather?

GG:  Grandparents

Bro: What do you call your brother and sister?

GG:  Siblings

Bro: What do you call your aunt and uncle?

GG:  That is a good question!!!

Why did he call with such a question, you ask?  First, he too was an English major as an undergraduate and he has as much curiosity with our crazy language as I do (sometimes more!).  Second, he is expecting his first child in less than a month (a daughter!!) and I am, thus, about to become a very proud first-time aunt!!  🙂

We have a general term for parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins but we don’t have a general term for aunts and uncles.  Why not?!  Is this something that once was a part of the English language but, for whatever reason, evolved to extinction.   Aunts and uncles are a significant relation; why don’t they have a word to reference them? Come to think of it . . . we don’t have a general term for nieces and nephews either.  Do other languages have such a term?  I took seven years of French and, as far as I remember, they have a separate name for aunt (tante) and uncle (oncle) but no general references.   Is there another language that has a general, gender-neutral term?

Hmmm . . . .  we aunts and uncles along with nieces and nephews must unite!  Perhaps we can come up with a new word and hope it catches on.  What about ancles for aunts and uncles and niflings for nieces and nephews?  I do enjoy making up words, after all!!  See my Words of Whimsy posts for proof of that.